County show ensures suppliers and ticketholders don’t lose out after Covid forces cancellation
The New Forest and Hampshire’s flagship county show has refunded all of its suppliers and customers after it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the support of a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) loan from Lloyds Bank. The event had been due to take place on the last weekend of July.
The New Forest Agricultural Show Society has evolved from the New Forest and Hampshire County Show which was launched in 1920 as a one-day event to help unite the community after WWI. The show originally travelled around Hampshire but in 1964 it settled in the New Forest where it still showcases the best of local produce, forestry, horticulture, animals and livestock from across the region.
Now based on a 250-acre estate in Brockenhurst, the famous three-day show attracts more than 90,000 people each year. It is currently run by a team of seven employees and supported by 400 community volunteers.
The organisation made the decision to cancel its 2020 show due to Covid-19 and rescheduled its centenary event to 2021. It immediately furloughed its staff to keep costs down and applied for a £400,000 CBIL from Lloyds Bank to provide it with the capital to pay its traders and give customers a full ticket refund.
It has now refunded more than 150 local traders and the 140 people who had already purchased their ticket. The organisation now plans to look ahead to its 2021 event to ensure its belated celebrations are the best yet.
The society also runs a Schools Day, where 400 children visit the site to learn about agriculture, horticulture, forestry and farming. The child’s fee for attending the Show is £1.00, which goes into a bursary scheme to pay for young people to have a future in agriculture, ranging from courses in forestry to farming. In the absence of its show this year, it plans to continue to develop its charitable initiatives, to ensure local people have access to education and activities following the coronavirus pandemic.
Denis Dooley, CEO of The New Forest Agricultural Show Society, said: “We had exciting plans to celebrate the show’s centenary year, however this had to take a backseat due to coronavirus. The right thing to do by our suppliers and ticketholders was to ensure they received full compensation during this difficult time, which is why the support from Lloyds Bank was so vital, giving us the cashflow to make this possible.
“We’re now planning to come back even bigger and better once it’s safe to do so next year and bring the people of the New Forest and Hampshire the celebrations they have been looking forward to.”
Ben Mackett, relationship manager at Lloyds Bank, said: “The New Forest and Hampshire County Show is a known and loved fixture in the local community calendar, with people coming from far and wide to experience all the brilliant produce and beauty our region has to offer.
“Unfortunately, the pandemic has put a stop to the event for this year, but the support we have provided has enabled the organisation to move its plans while ensuring nobody is out of pocket, which is a testament to its commitment to the community.”